Pastor Weedon has blogged on a piece of writing from proto “evangelical catholic” Lutheran theologian Rev. Dr. Arthur Piepkorn. The piece, called “Why still be a Lutheran?” was written in 1965, and, as Pastor Weedon acknowledges, a lot of water has flown under the Lutheran bridge since then. I could add that the river under the Catholic bridge hasn’t been frozen solid since then either…
Personally, I think the question that any self-respecting Lutheran should ask themselves every day is “Why am I not a Roman Catholic?” That at least is a question which hones Piepkorn’s question to a fine point. Just ask Peter Holmes!
Nevertheless, the points Piepkorn makes are interesting to consider (My comments in [bold]):
Lutherans should seek to witness to Rome:
* That nothing should be allowed in teaching or practice that obscures Christ’s saving work. [Granted. Mind you, even from our Catholic point of view, if our teachings or practices obscure Christ, it is not a problem with our teaching or practices in themselves, but that we are not teaching or practicing them properly!]
* The primary authority of Scripture in determining dogma and doctrine. [No problem with this either. Catholics have always regarded Scripture the primary authority in determining dogma and doctrine–just not the ONLY authority]
* A clear distinction between what is of human institution and what divine in matters of church government. [This can be granted too–however Piepkorn probably assumes a little naively that the distinction can always be clearly made, since the Church as the body of Christ led by the Spirit of God is simul humanus et divinus]
Lutherans would seek to witness to other Protestants:
* The role of the Church as interpreter of the Scriptures. [This is not so much a specifically Lutheran trait, as a Catholic emphasis that Lutheranism has, in some quarters, retained]
* The importance of the church’s historic dogmas and the necessity of holding a true confessional position [Ditto for the above].
* the true meaning of the sacraments and their central place in the Church’s life as acts of God. [Ditto for the above]
So one is led to conclude, that there is little here that distinguishes the unique witness of Lutheranism from the unique witness of Catholicism.
So, Lutherans: “Why still be a Lutheran? Why are you not a Catholic?”